Kyle McClean plays starring role as Linfield keep treble dream alive with Irish Cup semi-final victory over rivals Glentoran

Kyle McClean and Joel Cooper played starring roles for Linfield. PIC: Inpho/Stephen HamiltonKyle McClean and Joel Cooper played starring roles for Linfield. PIC: Inpho/Stephen Hamilton
Kyle McClean and Joel Cooper played starring roles for Linfield. PIC: Inpho/Stephen Hamilton
Linfield kept their treble dream alive as Kyle McClean’s brace and a Joel Cooper strike helped secure a 3-1 Irish Cup semi-final victory over Big Two rivals Glentoran at The Oval.

Having already celebrated BetMcLean Cup success against Portadown earlier this month, David Healy’s men are now just six matches away from potentially becoming the first Blues outfit to clinch a silverware treble since David Jeffrey’s all-conquering team of 2007/08.

They’ll now look forward to a final showdown against either Larne or Cliftonville, who face off at Windsor Park on Saturday, and also have their sights set on clawing back the two-point advantage the Inver Reds currently hold in the race for Premiership glory.

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Victory was made all the more sweeter for Linfield considering the last time they visited East Belfast provided undoubtedly their lowest moment of the season, losing 4-0 to Warren Feeney’s side in early-December.

It was fitting that perhaps both the Blues’ star player and best performer of the campaign both had major impacts with Cooper making the breakthrough via a piece of magic as he volleyed home at the first attempt after McClean’s cross was cleared into his path - the ex-Oxford United playmaker netting for the first time since December.

McClean turned from provider to scorer seven minutes after the break and it was a case of deja vu as Glentoran failed to deal with a delivery into the box as Daniel Finlayson’s header was palmed to McClean, who like Cooper, powerfully volleyed into the bottom corner.

Junior pulled one back for Declan Devine’s side in the 82nd minute by smartly converting from Patrick McClean’s cross, but it was Kyle McClean had the final say with his second – this time rocketing an unstoppable effort beyond McCarey.

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The hosts made a bright start and an early moment of promise came courtesy of Shay McCartan, who was able to create space and fire a dangerous ball across goal, but the opportunity ultimately fizzled out with no Glens player able to take control.

Glentoran should have taken the lead through James Singleton with the defender having a free header from close range after Aidan Wilson directed McCartan’s pinpoint delivery into his path, but the left-back sent his effort over the crossbar.

They were made to pay for that miss seven eight minutes later as Cooper converted smartly, making no mistake when the ball dropped to him with an instinctive finish beyond McCarey, adding to his brace at the East Belfast venue in November’s BetMcLean Cup success.

David Healy’s men could have doubled their advantage soon after as another wicked McClean delivery found Fitzpatrick in space but the former Glenavon forward couldn’t make the required contact to trouble McCarey.

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They did find a crucial second in the 52nd minute as the hosts failed to clear their lines from Millar’s cross, which was headed back across goal by Finlayson and found its way to McClean, who slammed his effort through a packed penalty area.

It continued what has a been a superb season for McClean with this latest attempt his 10th strike of the campaign.

Substitute Junior made the desired impact by volleying home from McClean’s cross, but Glens joy was short-lived as McClean ensured there would be no route back for their bitter rivals, who will now have to focus on booking European football through the play-offs.

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